Planting The Pots

The mid nineteenth century cast iron horse watering troughs Rob found in northern England last September have a new and happy home; my clients really like them.   It seemed fitting to me to fill them with water again.  But this time, no horses.  A collection of papyrus and white calla lilies in the gravel filled water flooded trough-this will be a good look, once the plants orient to the sun.  Papyrus (marketed now as King Tut grass, and mini-Tuts) stems break with the least disturbance. But water plants recover faster from damage than soil grown plants.  When they are happy with the water temperature and sun exposure, they grow vigorously. 

This pool terrace is large.  The 27 containers I placed on the limestone do not seem like too many.  Groupings of 5’s and 3’s improve the visual impact.  My clients favor a clean simple and modern look; the pool furniture makes that statement loud and clear.  I took my cue from their expressed interests, and their choices in furnishings.

Four top grafted willows on standard in tall Belgian teak boxes are the stars of the far view.  The wild and wooly silvery foliage atop a barely two inch caliper trunk-very beautiful in these tall contemporary boxes.  The head of the tree is vastly overscaled for the v-shaped box.  I cannot really articulate why I so like the proportion of the tree to its boxy home-it just looks really good to me.  The planting in the giant steel box looks underscaled, yes.  But once those silvery cardoons get to growing, the scale will be perfect.  The white Gallery dahlias lined up like soldiers in a rectangular volcanic slab trough represent white in a strong way.

A pool terrace of this scale needs something going on in the airspace.  The topiary willows are doing a fine job of that.  A single large French terra cotta vase from Ravel, to the right in this picture,  is planted with 8  gallon size mandevillea vines.  A grouping of twelve foot tall natural bamboo poles will provide an aerial home for those vines.  A hot pool terrace will set them to climbing.  The poles are a visual element that occupies and defines the airspace while plants get to growing.  A terrace of this size needs a big idea about the borders, and a bigger idea about ceilings. Comfortable spaces embrace company.  Exciting spaces make explicit reference to size and sky.   

Five containers clustered in a pool terrace corner male a statement about relationships.  A rectangle planted solid with lavender will contrast in form with a spiky agave.  A tall rectangle stuffed with white gallery dahlias and silver dichondra will be a great foil to a large volcanic trough planted solidly with double white datura.  The French terra cotta pot from Ravel-I planted it solidly with Whispers petunias.  The purple accents enliven this grey/green and white planting scheme.    

This pair of steel boxes viewed from the side-a little visual trickery is involved..  The foreground square tall box is planted solid with some blue succulent whose name I have never learned.  The tall volcanic stone slab box is largely occupied by a geranium-no kidding.  Some scented geraniums can grow to astonishing size.  It will only look larger,  better, and loaded with white flowers in 6 weeks. The right hand box is a rectangle-the long view is not available here.  I like a view that tricks the eye.  

Give horizontal view, it is clear what seemed to be a square tall box is in fact a rectangle.  In this rectangle, I planted four hyacinth bean vines.  The four absolutely vertical natural bamboo poles will provide plenty of support to these annual ornamental vines.  The placement of the 8 foot tall vine supports-a contemporary gesture.  

Contermporary container plantings call for lots of one thing, and little in the way of mitigating circumstances. Be simple, be direct, be subtle, be strong, be confident.  None of these containers call for traditional or formulaic plantings. Pick a plant, and plant lots.    

Three times today we had heavy and steady rains.  We kept planting.  A last minute addition-a Ravel pot from France painted white.  This afternoon, we delivered the white French pot, and stuffed it full of rosemary trimmed into spheres.

We finished our plantings at 4pm this afternoon-during the third hard rain of the day. I am not complaining-I am a gardener, so I relish whatever the weather brings. I looked over every square inch of my territory before I left.  A  client with an event at 7:30 pm- we helped them to be ready.